It’s official. Massachusetts has new curriculum frameworks that include pre-kindergarten and incorporate the Common Core State Standards approved in July. The final step came yesterday, when the state’s Board of Elementary and Secondary Education approved the pre-k standards as part of broader frameworks in English language arts and mathematics. Last week, the Board of Early Education and Care (EEC) approved the aligned pre-kindergarten standards.
As I noted in a blog post last month, the pre-k standards are intended for children attending programs the year before they enter kindergarten. The final standards have not yet been posted online, but they contain only minor language changes to the draft standards in English language arts and math. A PowerPoint presentation at the EEC board meeting summarizes the issue.
One thing I wrote in my earlier post bears repeating. The introduction to the English language arts standards stressed developmentally appropriate learning activities for young children. “The standards can be promoted through play and exploration activities, talking about the picture books, and embedded in almost all daily activities,” the introduction states. “These standards should be used to promote differentiated, engaging and individualized instruction.”
This collaboration on standards between EEC and ESE is part of a broader trend toward PK-3 alignment that I blogged about last week in Smoothing the Path from Pre-K to Grade Three and “Building Relationships is a Key Classroom Strategy.”
The commonwealth will phase in the new curriculum frameworks, beginning in 2011-2012 school year, and likewise gradually adjust the state’s annual assessment of student progress to reflect the new frameworks. Meanwhile, two groups of states — the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) – are working to develop assessments aligned with the Common Core Standards.
Commissioner Chester chairs PARCC’s governing board. One of PARCC’s charges is to develop assessments for kindergarten to grade two. In Massachusetts, the third grade MCAS test is currently the first statewide measure of children’s educational attainment. Developmentally appropriate assessments before grade three are critical, both to inform instruction and measure progress toward ensuring that children are proficient readers by the end of third grade, a strong predictor of their chances of success in school and beyond.